Kirkland prepares for City succession ahead of Learner’s departure

Kirkland & Ellis moved rapidly last week to calm fears of turbulence in its City office after the shock resignation of London head Jim Learner last Thursday.

Jim Learner
Jim Learner

The news was reported on last week (20 January 2012).

Corporate partner Learner is the UK member of Kirkland’s 15-person management committee and has responsibility for the US firm’s European operations. 

A Kirkland partner said last Friday, however, that the committee was up for re-election later this year and that reassurances had been given by the firm that a UK partner would replace Learner on the board.

“It’s definite that someone from London will be on it,” said the partner. “People will put their name forward and then there’s an internal process which will conclude before Jim leaves, so there’ll be a transition process.”

Market speculation immediately focused on which Kirkland City partner is most likely to take up the reins as London head after the departure of Learner.

Early favourites include finance partner Stephen Gillespie and private equity partner Graham White. The firm would not comment on the speculation.

Learner, Kirkland’s most senior corporate lawyer in the UK, is leaving the firm to join a US private equity house.

Speculation that Learner is set to join Bain Capital, one of his key clients, which is thought to be seeking a US general counsel, was dismissed by a source at the firm who pointed out that Learner was joining a private equity house in a non-legal, commercial role.

“It’s true that Jim is the relationship partner for Bain but there are many other lawyers in the office who work with that client as well,” added the lawyer.

Learner’s other clients include Apax Partners, Apollo Management, Madison Dearborn Partners, Towerbrook Capital Partners and Vestar Capital Partners Europe.